BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—Washington State is serious about staying ranked, not just making a brief appearance in the poll like Cougars teams of the past.
Kyle Weaver had 14 points, a career-high 10 assists and six rebounds, and No. 22 Washington State won playing as a ranked team for the first time in nearly 24 years, beating California 73-56 on Thursday night.
“I was intrigued, interested to see, OK, we got a little praise and notoriety because we got ranked for the first time—how will they respond?” first-year Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. “It’s a good experience for us. They came out the right way. We talked in the locker room, ‘Don’t forget about the little things that got us here.”’
Daven Harmeling had 14 points and seven rebounds and Derrick Low added 11 points and six assists—a big improvement on a season-low four-point performance in an upset of Arizona last weekend. Ivory Clark also added 14 points and Robbie Cowgill had 11 points and six boards in the Cougars’ fourth straight victory and eighth in nine games.
Washington State (15-2, 4-1 Pac-10) ended a four-game losing streak to Cal and avenged a pair of two-point defeats last season. The Cougars hadn’t won in Berkeley since a 55-50 victory on Jan. 4, 2004, which ended a 31-game losing streak at Cal and 22-game road skid in conference play.
Ryan Anderson had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead the Golden Bears (10-6, 2-2), who had won their previous two conference games after dropping their Pac-10 opener at Arizona.
Anderson’s 3-pointer with 7:50 left cut the Cougars’ lead to 56-46. But Washington State again had an answer in its first game since a 77-73 overtime upset of then-No. 7 Arizona last Saturday in Pullman.
Bennett liked how his team responded right then.
“They’re really excited about trying to turn this program around,” he said. “These kids have taken their lumps and paid their dues. … They’ve gotten their teeth kicked in lot of times.”
The Cougars are tied with Notre Dame for 22nd in this week’s poll after their great start under Bennett, who took over the program this season from his father, Dick. The team is in the rankings for the first time since Feb. 1, 1983, when it was ranked 18th under coach George Raveling.
“A loss and we’re definitely out of the rankings,” Harmeling said. “We knew we couldn’t let it go to our heads.”
The only other time the Cougars were ranked since 1950 was for a one-week period in late February 1980.
Ayinde Ubaka had 16 points to move within 31 of 1,000 for his career and Eric Vierneisel added 10, but the two combined to go 4-for-17 on 3-pointers as Cal shot 7-of-29 from long range.
“We can’t just say Washington State anymore,” Ubaka said. “They’re not a runover team. They’re a good team. … They did a great job of executing. They capitalized on our mistakes and our laziness on defense. That’s what great teams do. They’re not the old Washington State.”
The Bears struggled to establish any kind of offensive rhythm in the paint against the athletic Cougars, who didn’t allow Cal its 10th rebound of the game until early in the second half.
“They’re a team that’s both experienced and really has some guys who have played a lot of basketball in this league and guys who are getting better,” Cal coach Ben Braun said. “And they’re deep. … They’ll take you to the limit. They’ll take you there offensively and defensively.”
Cal has dearly missed center DeVon Hardin, who is sidelined until at least late February with a stress fracture in his left foot sustained Dec. 19 against Furman. Since the 6-11 Hardin has been out, Cal is averaging 26 3-point attempts per game.
The Cougars, picked to finish last in the conference this season, made 10 of their first 16 shots while Cal went 6-for-16. Washington State went on an early 11-0 run for a 17-5 lead before the Bears followed with an 8-0 spurt of their own. The Cougars also held an early 18-6 rebounding edge even when going with a smaller lineup and wound up with a 36-27 advantage on the boards.
“They have a lot of athletic guys and they really crash the boards hard,” Anderson said. “They outrebounded us again, which is something we really need to work on, especially me.”
Washington State shot 55 percent in the first half, hitting 12 of its first 16 two-point field goals, on the way to a 40-28 lead at the break.
The Cougars are 7-9 as a ranked team.